The No. 35 that Thunder fans everywhere know and love has joined the playoff party.
And with him on board, now it seems the real fun can begin.
After two strangely poor shooting nights in the opening games of this series, Kevin Durant regained his touch and carried the Thunder to a 95-79 blowout of the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 on Thursday night inside American Airlines Center.
With the victory, the Thunder took a commanding 3-0 series lead. Oklahoma City's first chance to close out the defending champions — and record its first playoff sweep — will come Saturday.
No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
As long as Durant remains dialed in, things figure to stay that way.
Durant scored a game-high 31 points in 40 minutes Thursday, the first time he's toppled the 30-point plateau in these playoffs. He made 11-of-15 shots. He nailed 4-of-6 from 3-point range. And he had a game-high-tying six assists against just one turnover to complete what was easily his best performance yet in his third postseason.
One day earlier, an almost dejected Durant admitted to growing frustrated after watching just 15 of his first 44 shot attempts fall. But the three-time scoring champ remained positive and insisted it was only a matter of time before he would heat up.
On this night, Durant came out hot — but not before missing his first attempt, a driving layup.
“I missed my first layup, so I thought it was going to be a long night,” Durant told TNT in his on-court interview immediately following the game.
But Durant would miss just one more shot the rest of the first half, finishing the opening half with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
He had 15 points in the first period, splashing in three 3-pointers, a smooth fadeaway and a sick step-back jumper to show he has indeed regained his rhythm.
“Kevin hasn't shot the ball well, but he's taken good shots,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He hasn't forced shots and he got to the free throw line last game. But it was good to have a good start. He's earned it. He works as hard as anybody I've ever been around. You knew he was going to have a good shooting game sooner or later.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said Durant simply was “jumping over us and hitting shots.”
The same stout defense that Dallas forward Shawn Marion had displayed in Games 1 and 2 was no match for Durant this time.
“Look, he's a great player,” Carlisle said of Durant. “He's the best scorer on the planet. And Marion did a phenomenal job for two games, and tonight Durant picked his level up a little bit and he was making some of those contested shots. What was he, 11-of-15? I mean that's a phenomenal shooting night in a game that their spreading the ball around quite a bit.”
With 4:54 left to play, Durant dropped in his final shot on a straightaway 3-pointer. It gave the Thunder a 26-point lead. It prompted Brooks to empty his bench.
And it quite possibly ripped the heart out of the defending champs and their die-hard fans down in Big D.